Why I left Ubuntu


As some of you may know I have recently started a new blog called “My Ubuntu Blog” (www.myubuntublog.com).
Some of you may therefore be alarmed by the title of this post as leaving Ubuntu would be a strange decision to make having committed to a whole blog on the subject.
This article is actually a guest post from Paul Smith who left a well thought out and well written comment at the bottom of the article “Is Unity Bashing a hobby?“.
Having read the comment I made the decision that it was too good to languish at the bottom of the post and so I asked for Paul’s permission to publish his comment as a full article on this site, which is about Linux in general.
So without further ado here is Paul Smith’s article “Why I Left Ubuntu”.

Why I left Ubuntu

I was a great fan of Ubuntu and Canonical. I loved the pre-Unity versions of
Ubuntu. I found the last Gnome 2 version to be especially functional and

When Canonical switched to Unity on 11.04, I tried it and
mostly liked it. Admittedly, there were some issues but I really liked the fact
that Unity did a better job of maximizing the screen real-estate available to
applications than any other desktop environment I have used previously. I was
hopeful that the wrinkles in Unity would be worked out in the next version and
was just about ready to pay for support from Canonical for all the systems in my
home, mostly as a thank you, when Ubuntu 11.10 came out.

Ubuntu 11.10
seemed to be a lot buggier overall. Unity would do weird things to my
applications and sometimes make the desktop unusable, forcing me to drop down to
the shell to restart X. Pulse audio on this version was a dog and would simply
not work with a sound card I’d been using successfully on Linux for about 5
years. I also discovered a number of newly introduced library compatibility
issues that broke some of the commercial software I needed for my

The final straws for me was Canonical’s decision not to include
snd-pcm-oss as a kernel model (which I discovered with Ubuntu 12.04), breaking
ALSA’s OSS emulation, as well as the inclusion of Amazon search.

I now
use Scientific Linux with the Trinity desktop since I really liked KDE 3. I find
that I can easily get everything to work with that distribution and it is
extremely stable. At this point the only thing I miss is the old Synaptic
package manager and some features of the Debian package file format.

Why Mir concerns me

I do a significant amount of technical computing. I could care less if the same
OS runs on both my desktop and my phone or tablet. I need a desktop that
provides a good environment for code development, modeling, as well as a limited
amount of CAD. I do this work on machines at work and, to a lesser extent, on my
home systems. Until my phone or tablet can support a large amount of DRAM, many
cores, and can plug into a keyboard and several large monitors, I don’t see
myself migrating away from a desktop. Canonical’s direction appears to be to
water down the desktop experience in order to make it more like the phone, the
same bad mistake Microsoft made with Windows 8. Developing Mir is a result of
this direction. I expect to use my desktop and phone for very different tasks
and could care less if they use the same OS. As an user, Mir does not appear to
offer me anything of real value.

Given the direction Canonical is taking,
I am very concerned that NVIDIA and/or AMD will make X and Wayland second class
citizens in favor of Mir. I would love to use Nouveau and similar open source
drivers; however, they’re not functional enough yet, either for the software I
use for my job or for recreational use with the games.  Some of these games
purchased from Loki Games dating back to the late 1990′s.

I am
thrilled that Steam and other game developers are beginning to fully embrace
Linux and would like to spend some money on these games. Assuming these games
are coded to work exclusively with Mir, then buying these Linux games is not an
option unless other distributions such as Scientific Linux, Fedora, or Debian
also migrate to Mir. For legacy games such as the ones produced by Loki Games, I
am concerned that Mir may not emulate X well enough.  Full support for legacy
applications that depend on X will be more of an issue if the Linux community’s
effort to develop X emulation is split between Wayland and Mir.

Given the
direction of the rest of the Linux ecosystem to standardize on Wayland as well
as the concern over OpenGL support from NVIDIA and AMD, I really wish Canonical
would have worked with the Wayland team to reach their goals rather than going
their own direction. In my opinion, trying to make the same OS and applications
work on both big iron and small phones or tablets is just silly at this point.
 Given this, fragmenting the Linux ecosystem right now to save a little power on
low end devices is just plain stupid.  I understand Canonical’s argument for the
other issues, such as, the desire for a more extensible input system; however,
Canonical should have been able to work through these issues with the Wayland

About the author

Paul Smith is an electrical engineer with 23 years of post college experience.
 He wrote his first program on an MOS Technology KIM 1 in 1979.  Paul has been
using Linux since 1998.


I would like to thank Paul for allowing me to post this article and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. 
If you think that you have an article worth posting on this site please feel free to get in touch at everydaylinuxuser@gmail.com.


    • It will never be about the phone for real money. There is just not the real estate on the phone for adversing. Going the way of the phone will be death. Read on:


      The problem is simply that small screens do not provide enough room or time to make profitable advertising media.

      Ultimately I believe the truth will be discovered on mobile advertising — there is no meaningful revenue potential — that is, there's no "there" there.

    • Let us not forget that ADVERTISING IS NOT THE ONLY WAY TO MAKE MONEY! For decades now advertisers have grown increasingly abusive of the PRIVILEGE to waste our time and space and no longer deserve any latitude or sympathy. Regarding small screens not providing enough room for advertising, I totally agree. That's why ALL my Android devices run an adblocker of one form or another and probably will for the forseeable future. Blinking text and Flash adverts were bad enough, but I certainly don't want ads wasting space and bandwidth on EVERY device I own. Sick to death of the sight of ads purely because of how abusive they've become. The advertisers act as if they have a RIGHT to be on every device I've bought whether I want them or not.

    • Main thing you are wrong about here, is the 'screen' aspect – Google Glass is the first step towards images being delivered straight into the eye 'as if large screen'. You talk about money? Well then, don't you see? The very Walls and Surfaces of the built environment will be THE SCREEN that projects your Psychograph. Sorry guys, but I'm a 45 yr old timer, who's gotta tell you to catch up to the Future! You know it makes sense. There's no shame in being incorrect (y)

  1. Century? It's a bit early for that, right? Even television and wars didnt last an entire century.

    Personally, I think Paul has a rather sour look on things. As far as I know X is pretty old and has limited capabilities. If Ubuntu can create a 'better X' and game and video driver developers embrace it, it's all for the better, right? And if the project fails they can always fall back to good old X.

    • I can't believe I'm having to explain this. The problem isn't X vs. Mir. It's that EVERYONE has standardized on Wayland as the way forward and then Canonical have decided to go in their own direction.

      It's a very MS move in my opinion. Take a standard, make it their own and different enough to cause headaches for everyone.

      Will Mir break compatibility with other Window managers? i.e. will you be able to install gnome-shell, kde etc. on top of Mir or will a change in desktop also mean having to install Wayland as well?

      I think Ubuntu is leading to a unfavourable position. It's still Linux but it won't be Linux in much the same way that ChromeOS is Linux and if you dig deep enough you might be able to expose bits of it but it's not really Linux… not the good old "I can do what I want to do" kind of way.

    • I think you miss Paul's point. He didn't say that Canonical should stick with X. He said that they should collaborate on Wayland rather than starting their own project. He's got a good point. It would be really bad for there to be two graphical framework standards for Linux.

      What the past shows us is that it is highly unlikely that there will be two graphical standards. For something this basic, eventually one of the two garners almost universal support, and the other falls by the wayside. That's the good news. The bad news is that Canonical can be stubborn about this, and that could lead to an odd situation where either Ubuntu shrinks and eventually fails, everyone else ends up adopting Mir, which is controlled entirely by Canonical, or Ubuntu becomes more and more a separate entity from the rest of Linux. None of those options seems good to me.

    • That's it. Why, Why in heaven Ubuntu is gone into their own way, ( technically (Mir vs Wayland/Watson ? it is a lie ). Is there a kind of agenda preparation with the Evil ? (…)

      I like the expression I read above from Nevyn : "It's a very MS move, etc…" on his opinion.

      Thus, guess what ? I am off from Ubuntu* since the beginning of 2013, being a fan of Archlinux for a while already, I decided to stay and use arch exclusively on my main cpu [ computer 🙂 ]

      Strangely, I don't miss the synaptic pkg manager. pacman is very powerful and archwiki + freenode and the community are as helpful as in Ubuntu.

      Otherwize I love my IMac '2011 but it's another topic 🙂

  2. You have been using linux since 1998 and you still don't know that you can change your desktop environment without changing distro?

    Ubuntu is still and will still be able to run KDE, Gnome shell, Mate, XFCE, LXDE, etc which don't use Mir.

    • If the first thing you do upon installing your operating system is uninstall the window manager and display server, you should probably look into a different operating system.

    • I'm going to disagree with this statement as it is too vague. The author admittedly states that the "packaging formats are missed". A set of apps is trivial to replace on this operating system, so like the poster said, it is odd to claim to be versed in an OS without knowing how to use it. The developers of the OS are okay in wanting to show the direction of latest efforts, and I can't fault them there. Where my issue might be is it I do an upgrade and I have my set of software, and I perform an upgrade, does my selection of software get replaced with an entirely different set (I.E. does KDE get replaced with GNOME)? I can't speak for Ubuntu as I do not use it, but should that be the case I would concur; that hardly seems like an upgrade but a wipe and replace.

    • Nonsense. KDE has not been able to be installed on Ubuntu and work correctly, for years. That was why Kubuntu was created.

      Canonical want to be like Apple. If they are allowed to, they will destroy Linux.

    • I used to love Ubuntu. Had it installed on everything and raved about it. Then Canonical started making more and more decisions not based on the best technical reasons, but on the best financial projections. This led to ignoring input from the user community, and a certain attitude that has come to be almost hubris. I switched from Ubuntu to Debian about a year ago, about the same time a few of my favorite Canonical employee/developers jumped ship for the same reasons.

    • Ubuntu is still and will still be able to run KDE…which don't use Mir.

      It will?
      Its nice to hear from a comment troll when when J.Riddell says he has no idea about Kubuntu and Mir.

      thanks for taking that info from the deep crevasses of your bum and sharing with us.


    • Unfortunately my reason for abandoning Ubuntu had very little to do with Unity or the desktop environment. In fact, I really liked the first versions of Unity.

      My reason for leaving had to do with such things as Canonical not even supplying a snd-pcm-oss kernel module, even if they then blacklisted it. Yes, I could have built the kernel from source with support for snd-pcm-oss turned on but then I would have had to deal with it every time Canonical did a kernel update.

      Even worse, Pulse Audio did not want to work with a sound card that had been working successfully on Linux for about 5 years. I note that the sound card worked perfectly with SL after I switched. For reference the sound card is a PCI Sound Blaster Audigy.

      I also ran into issues linking against libraries that I did not see on either on earlier versions of Ubuntu or the machines I used at work (which are not Ubuntu or Debian based). I also had issues with libraries when trying to get work supplied closed source applications running on Ubuntu.

      In some cases I was able to successfully work around the issues; however, after a certain point, it makes more sense to just move to something that provides better compatibility. I found that I could very easily modify SL so that it would fully support everything.

    • I'm currently running Kubuntu 13.04, using MATE 1.6 as my desktop. I am comforted by the knowledge that Kubuntu 13.10 will be using Wayland, and 14.04 as well. I am able to take advantage of the *buntu infrastructure, while partaking of the rest of the GNU/Linux world as I wish. You know, freedom.

  3. I liked Gnome 2 as much as anyone, I suspect. I never did like its lame way of switching between running apps. E.g., if I launched Firefox by clicking on an icon in a panel, I could not return to the instance of Firefox by clicking on the same icon.

    Unity is different than Gnome 2. Is it going to conquer the world? I don not know and I do not care. I do know that Gnome 2 did not conquer the world.

    Gnome 2 fans should just run MATE on a modern OS. I used CentOS — like Scientific a recompilation of RHEL — for a long time until the apps I would not run on those old libraries.

    • MATE 1.6, while it's still a work in progress, is good enough that it's my go-to DE. It does take a ridiculously long time on my desktop box to put up the top and bottom panels, I'm happy enough with the rest of its performance. It IS, thanks to the Mint team, being quite actively developed. My only complaint of MATE on my Chrubuntu Acer C7 is the excessive CUP usage of /usr/lib/policykit-1/polkitd; I use cpulimit to keep the limit at 10%.

  4. the OS is the kernel, and it is totally capable of scaling up to a big server, or scaling all the way down to a phone. so get it straight – they arent trying to accomplish that, they already have.

  5. Obviously you are old school and Ubuntu is too advance;

    Anyone wanting to lock down Alsa-OSS, or KDE3, is kinda of odd.

    I use Kubuntu and love pulseaudio and wine. I want the latest patches and drivers. I want my computer as functional and automated as possible, but still putting the power in my hands.

    • You do realize that either ALSA or, in a few cases, OSS is still used on every Linux distribution out there, right? Pulseaudio is a sound server and could send its output to either system. The reason to keep OSS emulation around is for certain old or commercial software which does not support ALSA. Paul isn't resisting a change to a new sound server. He just wants continuing support for software that uses OSS for sound output.

      He also doesn't insist on using KDE 3. He is using Trinity under Scientific Linux because he likes it best of the available options on that distribution. However, it seems pretty clear from the article that the desktop environment alone is not what made him decide to switch to Scientific Linux.

    • Power?
      Not sure what this means.

      Besides, isnt Mir designed as a solution for Unity and if distros don’t package Unity is there a need to package Mir?
      And thats not even dealing with protocol problems with Mir (no way to extend the protocol).

      From what Ive read it also seems that switchging sessions, running a Unity and a KDE Plasma (or GNOME or XFCE or anything) session at the same time seems will no longer be possible.

      Soooo many questions about these distros that they cant even answer yet makes this 'power' seem like a pipe dream.

  6. I have also been a big fan of Ubuntu for many years – I didn't care for Unity much (especially when 11.10 rolled around) so had then switched to gnome-shell, which I loved but it became a pain in the neck as well. Although I love to tweak and customize my systems, sometimes you just get tired of the mess and fixing little things – in essence, swimming upstream. I have never been a fan of Linux Mint, however, with the release of Linux Mint 15 XFCE…??? Well, I'M SOLD. Its a breath of fresh air – it is not only light and fast, as we would expect of XFCE, but it is very visually appealing and VERY WELL DONE, and EXTREMELY POLISHED, and everything JUST WORKS. And I had to do FAR LESS tweaking after the initial install than I ever had to do with Ubuntu with Unity or gnome-shell. And by default it installs most of the software apps I would normally have to add after the fact with regular Ubuntu… so… one less annoyance. I, too, was miffed by Canonical's decision to ditch wayland development for mir – but hey, its their product they can do whatever they feel like. If we don't like it? Then we can move on to something else. There are a million distros out there – PICK ONE. I don't know how long I will stick with Linux Mint XFCE, but for now I am satisfied with it..

  7. So let me get this straight: Linux is used by an infinitesimal part of the population. An engineer who does like Ubuntu and Unity leaves it because of a commercial lens that can be easily uninstalled (a non-reason) and because he needs this package https://launchpad.net/ubuntu/precise/+package/alsa-oss installed.

    Now that's not "why" somebody would leave Ubuntu for a totally different Linux distro. This is to show the user unwilling to solve his very special needs with a simple Google search.

    Canonical is doing the right thing by catering to the general public. All this Unity backlash will never die. And if people are feeling bad because Mir will be targeted by proprietary vendors before Wayland, that's their problem. Nothing stops any distro to use Mir, except for the usual irrational hatred of the geek community.

    • >Nothing stops any distro to use Mir, e

      Sycophant, how about leaving teh technical stuff to one who know what thyere talking about and not those repeating their LoCo mantra?

      >xcept for the usual irrational hatred of the geek community.

      yeah, those are the geeks Im talking about…

      you are way over your head to be able to actually read a Garrett or Martin Grosslin and understand what they are saying. Unless you think these top geeks are haters too…


  8. Canonical is weirdly not pleasing anybody at all. The committed Linux troops are mad that it's diluting desktop to work with phones and tablets, and general users are wedded to more stable and app-rich ecosystems like Apple's and Google's. I personally started with Ubuntu a couple of years ago, installed on a netbook with W7, and quickly learned two things: a) software support is very temporary, a complete game stopper for Windows users; and b) my home LAN needs ridiculously complicated Samba, which nobody is bothering to streamline or make more intuitive.

    If Canonical is working on the proposition that everybody is going to a) fresh install the OS on every device just to get the latest software updates from third parties, and b) going to install Ubuntu on every device just to network without going nuts using Samba, fuggedaboddit.

    (Don't tell me about "LTS", it's a joke. The OS gets tweaked now and then but repositories are out of date within a few months of release, and a fresh install and time consuming reconfigure of the OS is the only way to reliably update.)

  9. Keep in mind that the Linux "market" is NOT the general public. So when a distribution like Ubuntu goes to dumbing things down — it's not surprising that a bunch of their users will decide to jump ship… and I'll be doing the same probably. For my use — unity and compiz have basically been a step backwards and a total waste of time from so many perspectives. I just does not fit well with my usage pattern — which admittedly is technical, scientific, and advanced… and I get to make that assessment, and I get to choose.

  10. Using same logic as Wayland supporters use implies that also KDE should give up and kiss GNome and Red Hat ass to ;et them contribute to the "standard" and as we all know they are very open to contributions.
    P.S this captcha is impossible

  11. i feel confident this user will be back to Ubuntu perhaps later next year, if not sooner 😉

    we use CentOS on our servers, and i love it for that, but for desktop use-case nothing comes close to UX of Ubuntu

    with Mir will come even more slick UI in time, having the system compositor, and better performance, e.g. using less memory than X

    i imagine there will be some stability isses in 13.10 and 14.04, but 14.10 should be fantastic 🙂

  12. I made a couple comments on that other article, and stated how I was okay with the competition or at the very least okay with the conversation Mir created around all of this. At first I was okay with Unity on 13.04, then started to notice issues. I have switched to Gnome 3 and am really pleased.

    On the issue of the display server, I would *much* rather such a key piece of infrastructure be controlled in a much more open, not aligned with any one interest, fashion. I'm starting to see what a problem the other way could be.

    I hope Wayland can be the best that it can be. If there are some good ideas that get proved out in Mir, I hope that Wayland is willing to take a look, though I am well aware that the people involved in Wayland know desktop graphics at a very deep level. Time will tell what happens, but if one good thing can come out of this (and it already has happened so that is the reality), maybe the discussions and public discourse can lead to a better Wayland, certain bring awareness to the fact that X is going to be replaced, and honestly good riddance in the sense that it is bloated, etc and whatnot.

  13. Ubuntu was my favourite distro, but too many changes have taken place and it's falling out with me
    – Unity
    – The whole display manager thing
    – The Amazon thing
    – My beloved Gnome 2 UI gone
    – The mysterious OS or app crash messages that I NEVER saw on the old versions
    – This talk about going their own way for their own different package manager
    – This crazy idea that a desktop OS should like exactly like a mobile OS. If I wanted to run something like that…I'd run it on a smart phone or a table
    – Generally speaking, more of a resource hog than the old versions

  14. Great post. This line stood out for me: "Canonical’s direction appears to be to water down the desktop experience in order to make it more like the phone"

    This is precisely my issue with Mac OS X 10.8. I've been using OS X since '06, and toying with Linux since '08. Mostly I played with various versions of Ubuntu and Puppy, but I always kept OS X as my primary OS (aside from being tied to a Windoze XP box at work.)

    Since I upgraded my MBP to 10.8 though, I'm annoyed at how much the OS runs, feels, and looks like an iOS device. If I wanted an iPad I'd buy one. I want my laptop to act and feel like a laptop, and the more customizable the better.

    My wife is now using my MBP more and more since her laptop died, so I'm in the market for a decent laptop, and I'm going to take the plunge and install Linux as my primary OS. I have an older PC running Mint LXDE, an old PPC G5 running Debian, and a really old PC (P II) running Ubuntu server for a local/test web server, so I'm more immersed in it that I ever have been, but I still don't consider myself a true Linux user because it isn't my primary OS (yet.)

    I think I'll end up with a variant of Mint to start with, and once I've learned more try out pure Debian and/or Arch.

    It took me years to fully migrate my wife to OS X so I could stop fixing her PC every other day. Now I get to start again, this time moving her toward Linux 🙂

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